It’s hard to comprehend how far I have travelled in the last 20 days. Austria feels like a lifetime a go and is another planet compared to the landscape of the last few days. I have ridden from alpine mountains through endless fields in Russia to the steppe and desert of Kazakhstan and have returned to rolling hills and mountains on the horizon as I approach Almaty in the south.
After Austria I rode to Budapest where I stayed with Tim, had a beautiful meal with his family and got a tour of the city at night in his URAL sidecar. An experience I’ll never forget.
From Budapest I headed through Slovakia, camping in Košice. On the ride in I rode past a large building, completely derilict, now home to Roma Gypsies. It was a pretty shocking site. After chatting with Viktor, whose parents owned the campsite, he offered to take me to the shops to get dinner and then show me Lunik 9. Lunik 9 is something that has to be seen to be believed. A whole district of a city comprising maybe 10/15 high rise flats that are all in ruins and piled high with rubbish. I think the main thing that shocked me is that such poverty can exist so close to home and within the EU.
I left Slovakia and headed to Lublin, Poland. After crossing the border I immediately felt more relaxed. I stayed by a big lake surrounded by forests. The next day I attempted to cross the Ukrainian border but was rejected due to only having copies of the bike registration. I returned to Lublin and Ducati sent out the originals for delivery the next day. I took the bike for a service in Warsaw to make the most of the lost day and succefully crossed the border the morning after. Ukraine was the start of the long and straight roads which have been unchanging throughout the former Soviet Union with the exception of their condition. Potholes became regular obstacles which managed to shake free the boots which were strapped to my bike. Thankfully RevIt! are sending new ones to Almaty!
I entered Russia with relative ease, friendly border guards took interest in my bike and the trip and we managed to fill in all necessary paperwork even with the large language barrier. Russia was a demonstration in the meaning of vast. Black fields stretched on forever as did the straight roads between cities. I stayed in Kursk the first night, then Voronezh where I met Alexander. Alexander pulled up next to me on his motorbike at some traffic lights as I entered the city, he asked me if I wanted a coffee and I followed him to his house where he showed me all sorts of photos before showing me to my hotel and convincing the receptionist to let me park my bike in their garage. He returned with his son (who spoke English) and we chatted about the trip and my plans.
I left Voronezh the next morning and spent a night in Saratov before heading to the Kazakhstan border and on to Uralsk. I stayed there two nights to recover a bit from racing my Russian visa expiry and to get insurance to ride in Kazakhstan. The road to the border and from the border to Uralsk were abysmal with craters in the road and some sections completely demolished. The landscape completely changed from Russia’s black agricultural land to dusty steppe complete with eagles, tumbleweeds and camels. Great for a day but pretty monotonous after three. Steppe became desert and then, as I approached Kyzylorda, green crept back into the land. Through Shymkent and on to Taraz I was back in rolling hills with mountains as a backdrop. I’m heading for Almaty tomorrow to meet the Ducati team there and will spend a few days with them exploring the area. I’m super exited to explore and happy that my bike will be getting some TLC!
20 days on the road have flown by.
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